Cabbage

Cabbages – Grow Guide

Find out how to sow, grow and harvest cabbages, in this practical guide.

Overview

Shredded in salads, added to stir-fries or mixed into soups, cabbages have a wide range of uses. The also have the great advantage of being available almost all year round, thanks to the many types that can be grown, from leafy spring varieties to dense, hearting winter ones.
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Plant
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Harvest
Harvest
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Spacing: 25cm apart 30cm between rows

Depth: 2cm

Avg yield: 10kg per 3m row

Growing cabbages from seed

Sowing and planting

Cabbages need a lot of space. They like a sunny spot with moist soil that has had plenty of well-rotted organic matter added, such as garden compost. Ideally, work this into the soil the previous autumn.

Cabbages can be sown all year, depending on when they mature. For best results, sow seeds indoors, 2cm deep, in pots or trays, and place on a sunny windowsill. After about five weeks, plant the young cabbages outdoors.

Spacing requirements vary: grow spring cabbages 25cm apart, with 30cm between rows; summer cabbages 38cm apart, with 30cm between rows, autumn cabbages 45cm apart, with 45cm between rows; and winter cabbages 45cm apart, with 60cm between rows.

Club root is a soil-borne infection that distorts the roots of cabbages and inhibits growth. It thrives in acidic soil, so check your soil's pH by doing a simple pH test. If your soil is acidic, then add lime to neutralise it.

Tending the crop

Keep cabbage plants well watered and ensure that soil never dries out. Don't let it get waterlogged either.

Harvesting cabbages

After about 20 weeks, use a sharp knife to cut the cabbage. Leave a 10cm stalk, cut a shallow cross in the top and the plant will produce an extra cabbage or two.

Storing cabbages

Cabbages are best eaten as soon as they are picked, but winter and red cabbages can both be stored in a cold place.

Preparation and uses

Discard any floppy outer leaves. Cut out the hard central stalks from the leaves. Wash well, then shred and use raw in salads and coleslaw, pickled in sauerkraut, braised or lightly steamed as a side dish with a knob of butter, but never boiled to death when the taste and smell turn bitter.

Save the cooking water, which is full of vitamins, minerals and flavour, to make nutritious soups or gravy.

Troubleshooting

Cabbage plants are easy to care for but watch out for pigeons and the caterpillars of small and large white butterflies. Cover over your plants with netting and string up some old CDs to scare away hungry birds.

Net your cabbages

Cabbages are a magnet for birds, which feast on the foliage, as do the caterpillars of the small and large white butterflies, which lay eggs on the undersides of leaves. These caterpillars can strip the foliage in no time. To prevent such damage, put a simple barrier in place – a low tunnel covered netting or fine mesh is ideal.
Cabbage 'Primero'
Cabbage 'Primero'

Cabbage varieties to try

Cabbage varieties are grouped according to when they're ready to harvest.

Spring cabbages (sown in late summer) produce loose leaves or conical heads. Summer cabbages (sown in early spring) have large round heads. Autumn cabbages (sown in late spring) have large round heads. Winter cabbages (sown in spring) include crinkly savoys.

  • ‘Earliest Of All’ – compact, pale green heads ready for picking from July
  • ‘Langedijk’ – tender heads with a white heart for use over autumn and winter
  • ‘Primero’ – blackish-purple summer cabbage
  • ‘Savoy King’ – autumn/winter cabbage, hardy

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